Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Ballerat's sprawling botanical garden is a beauty mate.

The last town Terry and I drove to was Ballerat. In Australia it was springtime while back in Orlando it was Winter, not that there is much of a difference. We stopped at the Ballerat Botanical Gardens (Gillies Street North, N Ballarat VIC 3355, Australia) so Terry could enjoy the flowers and birds and I could sketch. I suppose I should have wanted to capture the gorgeous vibrant colored flower beds, but instead, I walked straight into a sculpture pavilion. The pavilion felt like it came from a Victorian era Worlds Fair.

The Pavilion and its statues were unveiled in 1888 by Premier Duncan Gillies, a former colleague of James Russell Thompson whose bequest to the City enabled the purchase, in Italy, of the statues. The Flight from Pompeii and the four accompanying statues are housed in the Statuary Pavilion in the Ballarat Botanical Gardens. The Flight from Pompeii, in the center, was designed by Professor Carlo Benzoni and carved by Charles Francis Summers while the four accompanying statues were all designed and carved by Charles Francis Summers. The octagonal Pavilion was specially designed by T.E. Molloy in 1887 to house the statuary. 

I left out the guard rails since they blocked my view of certain details. Families and couples would come in briefly to view the statues. Parents would explain the sculptures significance to their children. I wondered why the couple only had time to throw towels over their loins as the ran down the streets of Pompeii trying to escape the lava and ash erupting from the volcano. He thought ahead enough to also bring a bed sheet which billowed above them to hopefully stop any red hot rocks from burning their backs. Had they just been in bed, or did they run from a bath house?

One aspect of this scene is that large quarter sized flies would enter the pavilion and they would buzz and pound themselves against the windows trying to escape back out to the vibrant garden. They would start their frantic escape by smacking high against the glass. With each successive blow, they would grow tired and ultimately rest against the windows bottom ledge.  In my head a devised an obvious fly trap that would easily catch every fly allowing them to be removed and released into someone else s garden. How many times would flies stop to rest on the smooth granite semi nude skin of these statues and they couldn't slap the flies away. As it was, I had to smack a few persistent flies with my sketchbook when the distracted me too much from the sketch. This pavilion was Pompeii for every fly that entered. The were doomed to see the glorious freedom just beyond the glass and die from exhaustion  or the slap of my sketchbook as they struggled to reach it.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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